High Schooler Returns to Soccer After Torn ACL

There may be nothing high school athletes fear more than hearing that their dream of playing college or professional sports is shattered due to an injury. The thought flashed like lightning through Megan Grant’s mind when she went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a high school soccer game.

 

Today, following knee surgery and rehabilitation at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care in Plantation, the 16-year-old is not only back on the field, but she is in the midst of college sports recruiting.

 

 

(Watch now: Following knee surgery and rehabilitation at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care in Plantation, 16-year-old Megan Grant is not only back on the field, she’s also in the midst of college sports recruiting.)

 

“At first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to come back ― that I might not ever play soccer again,” says Ms. Grant, who lives in Sunrise. “But today my soccer career is going really well, and I’m focused on getting recruited for college.”

 

Approximately 200,000 ACL injuries occur in the U.S. each year, making it one of the most common types of knee injuries. It’s more frequent in women than men and often happens when an athlete makes a quick change in direction while the foot is planted. About half of those with a torn ACL will require surgery.

 

“A ligament is basically a rope between two bones that gives stability to the knee,” explains Fernando Moya, M.D., Ph.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. “A tear makes the knee unstable. It buckles, it gives out and the player cannot function.”

 

Fernando Moya, M.D., Ph.D., orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care in Plantation

 

Dr. Moya performed an ACL reconstruction, taking a tendon from behind Ms. Grant’s kneecap, inserting it into the knee joint and securing it with screws to the tibia below the knee and the femur above the knee. It’s a procedure he has done more than 2,000 times. “You have to be an expert on this. It has to be done perfectly so that the patient can return to sports with minimal risk.”

 

Ms. Grant went home the day of her surgery and began physical therapy the next day. Justin Bennett, a physical therapist with Baptist Health Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, remembers meeting an anxious and tearful patient for her first session.

 

“You start with caution,” Mr. Bennett says. “We built a rapport on that first day. Just letting her know that, hey, I’m an athlete. I’ve been in your position as well, so I kind of know what you’re going through, and I understand you and I’m here for you.”

 

The physical therapy team is aware that the mental recovery is as necessary as the physical comeback, says Edward Dungca, another physical therapist who worked with Ms. Grant. Most athletes, he says, after first coping with the pain, wonder if they will ever play at a high level again. “This is where it can be challenging for us because we have to walk them through each step. I have to go through the fundamentals and then help them build that foundational strength to show them and, hopefully, down the road, return them to their sport with a smooth transition.”

 

Following ACL surgery, it can take nine months to a year for an athlete to receive full clearance to play again, the therapists say.

 

Rohan Grant, Megan’s father, says he’ll never forget the day his daughter tore her ACL. “I was in the stands,” he says. “When I saw Megan fall to the ground, I knew it was not a simple injury. I knew it was serious.”

 

But as he watched his daughter work through physical therapy three times a week for nearly a year, Mr. Grant says he was amazed by her determination. The little girl he began kicking a ball with before she was 3, was ready to get back in the game.

 

“The first game she played after the surgery I was emotional,” he says. “She played a very physical game where she actually got knocked over a couple of times, and she got up and just ran like nothing happened. And at that point, I’m like, OK, she’s on her way back.”

 

 

The Grant family says that having surgery and physical therapy at the same Baptist Health Orthopedic Care location in Plantation was convenient because it was close to home. It also meant that Ms. Grant really got to know the doctors, therapists and staff.

 

“We have surgery, our clinics and physical therapy in the same facility. Patients can come to us from day one and leave us nine months later to go play because we have the gamut of professionals, from athletic trainers to physician assistants, our orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists. We are all here to make sure that you get better and you get back into your life and into your sport,” Dr. Moya says.

 

While no one wants to experience an injury like Ms. Grant’s, the teenager says that what happened afterwards was life changing. “After everything I’ve gone through, I’m leaning toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon,” she says. “I’ve been through the process. I know what it’s like and I also know the mental side of it. And I’ve been inspired by Dr. Moya.”

 

Says Dr. Moya, “It’s a privilege and an honor to be an orthopedic surgeon. This is my passion. This is my life. And I’m blessed by Megan and her family and knowing that she is doing great, she’s competing and, even better, that she wants to become an orthopedic surgeon.”

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